This is a story about the end of your world. My world too, presently at least. I had a good run in it. Try not to worry about the end, it snuck up on almost everyone, myself included, and I was the one with a good seat.
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Two hours past the border gate and we were making good time, ocean on one side, plywood homes on the other. A toll stop choked off the highways quick current, its concrete booths empty and dark. Instead people hovered at lane edge with cardboard box. When I slowed the car, the scratch of Taylor’s nail against her phone screen paused. “Don’t stop.”
I flicked a look over, unsure and braking. Taylor watched the toll-collectors, eyes heavy lidded against the sun streaming in through the passenger window. “Just go.”
A prickle of tightened skin jumped from my tailbone up my spine. When the car ahead of us I pressed my athletic shoe to the gas pedal and lurched the car forward into full speed. The people at the toll booth threw themselves back, flattening to the vertical concrete. We raced away from their cries, escaping the untellable words and unmistakable meaning in the wash of tires and gasoline-soaked air. Taylor kept her laugh behind closed lips, chin down and shoulders shaking, eyes bright as new snow.
I laughed too, shaking my head, chest pressed against the steering wheel for support as my pulse still raced in pace with the car. In these moments, Taylor and I beat in time. She could have been an old river-basin goddess. Electric meanness and petty cruelty lounging golden in the passenger’s seat of the rental car.
“Why didn’t we pay the toll?” I asked once my body could breathe again and we were cruising through what passed for a city here. Plywood and rust, and more litter along the highway, Did people liked their cities this way, its veins choked with greasy paper and plastic like discarded chitin. They must. Where humans gathered, so did their trash.
Taylor let her head fall back, throat presented to the top of the car before she answered me. “There are probably cameras, they’ll catch our license plate and send a ticket back to the rental place.”
“They have your information though. You hate tickets.” It’d taken me some time to learn the rules, the endless way people kept track of each other now. The databases, endless bits of papers and numerals and pixels. Less time to learn that Taylor, due to her calculating ability to flit between mundane stricture, was easily annoyed by those who managed to pin her to consequences.
“Don’t worry about it.” Taylor began to flick her fingernail against her phone screen again. Music started to play over the car’s stereo. I turned it down before the tinny melody could drown out the peace returning to the car. Taylor snorted very softly and smiled at me. She kept the music down.
This is the first part (of three) that’ll I’ll post over the next week. Parts two and three coming Friday and next Wednesday.